Do I Need To Wear A Seatbelt If I Have A Respiratory Disability?

Dr Handicap - seatbelt
Dr Handicap - seatbelt

You may be under the impression that you always must wear a seatbelt when in a car, but that’s not always the case. There are some medical conditions that may make it difficult to wear a seatbelt, or a seatbelt may aggravate the condition further. Respiratory disabilities are some of the most common reasons people get a disabled parking permit. If you have a respiratory disability, and you’re wondering “Do I need to wear a seatbelt?”, here’s what you need to know about medical exemptions that apply to you.

The Law

In every state but New Hampshire, it’s mandatory to wear a seatbelt when you’re operating a motor vehicle or if you’re a passenger. In some states, only the driver and passenger in the front of the car are required to wear a seatbelt, but 29 states require all occupants of the car to wear one.

There’s one exception to these laws, however – a medical exemption. While the evidence is overwhelming that seatbelts save lives in accidents on the road, there are certain medical conditions that make it difficult to wear a seatbelt, including respiratory disabilities. To get a medical exemption, you must see a medical practitioner to issue you one.

If you suffer from a respiratory disability, braking suddenly can cause injury to you and make breathing more difficult. That’s why it’s worth it to talk to your doctor about a medical exemption for wearing a seatbelt if it makes it more difficult for you to breathe.

Medical Exemption Certificates

When you see a medical practitioner to evaluate your situation, be aware that they’ll judge your specific case based on its merits. There is no condition that will justify an automatic exemption. They’ll do a thorough assessment and ask you to demonstrate how wearing a seatbelt causes difficulties for you. They may also counsel you in ways you can overcome any difficulties and still keep wearing a seatbelt.

Some common conditions, aside from respiratory disabilities, that may qualify someone for an exemption for wearing a seatbelt include:

  • Musculoskeletal conditions or deformities that make it difficult or impossible to fasten a seatbelt properly
  • Physical disabilities that make it difficult or impossible to fasten a seatbelt
  • Special weight and height conditions may require modification of the restraints in the vehicle

If you are granted a medical exemption certificate, then you must carry it on your person at all times when traveling in a vehicle. That way, if it’s ever requested by the police (whether you’re the driver or a passenger), you can produce it without a problem.

The Importance of Wearing Seatbelts

Wearing a seatbelt when driving or riding in a car dramatically lowers your chances of being killed or injured in an accident. If you’re unrestrained, chances are much higher of being seriously injured, which is why it’s important to really weigh the pros and cons of not wearing a seatbelt with your respiratory condition. Keep in mind that you may be able to find a custom seatbelt that can meet your specific requirements to provide the correct fit and remove pressure from sensitive areas. Just remember that all modifications to seatbelt restraints need to be inspected and approved.

Other Benefits You May Be Entitled To With a Respiratory Disability

Beyond a medical exemption for wearing a seatbelt, there are other avenues you may want to explore that can make living with a respiratory disability just a little bit easier, such as:

  • Mobility bus pass: Many towns and cities offer a drastically reduced or free pass for public transportation to those with a respiratory condition. You’ll have to present proof of your disability and ask your doctor for documentation that you can take to your local transit authority.
  • Disabled parking permit: In many states, people who have difficulty walking 200 feet due to breathing difficulties are eligible for a disabled parking permit. Talk to your local Department of Motor Vehicles branch to find out what you need to present in order to get a permit, which will enable you to park closer to entrances in public places.
  • Help with your household: If you are over 60 and living with a respiratory disability, then you may be eligible for low-cost assistance with household tasks, moving, and yard maintenance. Contact your local Area Agencies on Aging to help you figure out what services may be available to you.

Navigating the world with a disability can be difficult, but understanding what rights are afforded to you makes things easier. If you suffer from a respiratory disability, make sure to find out all the rights you have – including if driving in a car without a seatbelt is something you can do legally. You may be surprised what you find out and how it can help you to get from place to place while breathing just a little bit easier. And don’t forget to check out other car accessories that can making traveling in a car just a bit easier!

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